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The Oldest Prose Narrative in the World
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Richard Elliot Friedman
The Hidden Book in the Bible (San Francisco:  HarperSanFrancisco, 1998.  402p.)

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The foremost scholar of the JEPD textual theory of the Torah, Friedman presents his scholarly notes and backgrounds, and the reconstructed text of what he understands to be the original story of the J text, thought to be the oldest narrative of the Torah, which uses Yahweh as the name of God.

Freidman's analytical reconstruction differs from that of Harold Bloom, in The Book of J.

Friedman finds the J Writer in much of the material up through the Davidic monarchy of united Israel.  Bloom follows the more conservative traditonal view that restricts the J document primarily to Genesis.  Friedman interacts with Bloom and other textual critics and their theories.  He presents strong stylistic, linguistic and thematic arguments that this original document goes from Genesis through the establishment of Solomon's reign.

He further presents arguments confirming the antiquity of this deep strata of biblical material, proving that this is the oldest known example of prose in any language, as well as the first history (though all ancient "histories" are different in style from the modern western concept of history).  He further deals critically with its relationship to the early material from the northern kingdom, commonly referred to as E, showing that they both were in final form and already being combined into a single document in Judah.

Together these constitute the two oldest examples of human prose, predating even Greek histories, previously claimed to be the earliest histories.  Friedman closes with a devastating detailed argument against recent lines of argument claiming all the biblical texts were written in or after the Babylonian Exile.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Archaeology and the Biblical Texts
[review] Harold Bloom, The Book of J (Reading Notes)

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First reading notes written 29 May 2005
Reviewed on Amazon 29 July 2005
Finalized and posted on OJTR 27 December 2007

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD1
Copyright © 2007 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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